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/(V.\K' Qunrti-rt Vol. S6. Nil. .Aiídimn 20m 654^72 ^J2(m AEJMC 654 DOES CLASS MATTER? THE EFFECT OF SOCIAL CLASS ON JOURNALISTS' ETHICAL DECISION MAKING By Teresa Correa Tliis study investigated experimentally whether social class of people who appear in neios stories influences Chilean journalists' ethical rea- soning. Based on schema, social identity, and moral development theo- ries, it found that journalists applied loioer levels of ethical reasoning luhen faced with an ethical dilemma associated with the poor, an effect moderated hy participants' invohcment in the story. Psychological mechanisms—such as involvement, mental elaboration about stories' subjects, and identification with them —infiuenced participants' ethical thinking. Social class is a commanding force shaping news media produc- tion that is often overlooked. Because class is associated with income, power, and status,' it is pivotal in the news-making process and journal- ists' work. As Gans^ wrote: "The news deals mostly with those who hold the power. ., with the most powerful officials in the most powerful agencies; with. .. people (who] dominate the sodoeconomic hierarchy." However, class is scarcely mentioned in newsrooms and few stud- ies on news media deal with it.^ The poor are both underrepresented in news coverage and linked to negative stereotypes and criminality.' This negaäve coverage of the poor occurs in the United States and else- where,^ but is especially relevant in countries such as Chile, where sodoeconomic inequality is a defining aspect of society. Although work routines and organizational and extra-media pres- sures shapie news content^ and explain, in part, this bias against the poor,^ it has been argued that individual reporters' prejudices also play a role.*' Most journalists are college-educated people who usually report about their known environment** and who have been socialized in a pro- fession and in organizations that tend to value more powerful sectors of society.'" Consequently, they may rely on stereotypes when covering people from lower socioeconomic classes. This may occur when faced with an ethical decision such as, for instance, deciding whether to pub- lish a story, how to publish it, or when to run it. Teresa Correa is a Ph.D. student in the School of Journalism at ihe University of Texas at Aus^tiii. T/iis projixt was funded f>i/ the Liberal Arti Gradiiali' Research Felhu'ship from the CoHe;^c of Liberal Arts, UmvcTsity of Texan at Austin. The aiillwr ¡hanks Reitita Cokmaufor helpful comments and the School of journalism at Diego Portales University for recruiting the parlicipants. UiiM fr M/1SS COMMUNICATION Q(I,Afiï7:Ki V
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This study investigates experimentally whether the social class of individuals who appear in news stories influences the ethical reasoning of Chilean journalists. Ethical reasoning is defined as people's judgment of which alternative is more morally justifiable, just, or right." Based on schema, social identity, and moral development theories, the study
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